Toll Plazas Weigh Vehicles, Harvests Energy From Them

Elizabeth Montalbano

January 13, 2015

4 Min Read
Toll Plazas Weigh Vehicles, Harvests Energy From Them

While car manufacturers are looking for ways to make automobiles lighter through the use of new materials, researchers in India are finding a way to leverage their weight to create energy.

Scientists in the Mechanical Engineering Department of the Government Engineering College in India have designed a way to harvest energy from the weight of vehicles as they pass through a toll plaza.

The system includes a platform that, with the help of a compression spring, allows the weight of a vehicle passing through the platform to be transferred through the system as energy to a generator that's connected to the apparatus. Details of the research were published in a paper on the International Organisation of Scientific Research website and outlined in an article on the website of research firm IDTechEx.


The solution as described by researchers basically works like this: Vehicles pull up to the toll plaza and onto a flat platform that's mounted on a compression spring, slightly descending due to gravity. The platform is welded to a rack-and-pinion system that takes the weight of the car from the platform and thus converts reciprocal motion into rotating motion. This is the movement that is transferred to the generator shaft to generate electricity.

The movement of the vehicle leaving the toll plaza brings the spring back to its original position, making it ready for the next car to roll up and repeat the process, according to researchers.

In India, like elsewhere, the number of vehicles passing through toll plazas is increasing, and a solution like the one developed by these researchers could provide a silver lining in the cloud of traffic congestion there by using the kinetic energy of those vehicles to create electricity. This could be particularly useful in electricity-poor regions like India that are looking for alternative sources of traditional grid energy, but also could be used on any toll highways in the world. "This design is ideal for highway toll plazas," IDTechEx researchers noted.

Other researchers have invented solutions that harvest energy through weight and compression in similar ways but on a smaller scale. The UK company Pavegen, for instance, harvests energy from people's footsteps when they step on rubber-based tiles the company developed that literally put a spring in their step. A US-based startup called SolePower also has developed insoles for shoes that do a similar thing and harvest energy when a person's heel hits the ground.

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Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 15 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco, and New York City. In her free time she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.

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About the Author(s)

Elizabeth Montalbano

Elizabeth Montalbano has been a professional journalist covering the telecommunications, technology and business sectors since 1998. Prior to her work at Design News, she has previously written news, features and opinion articles for Phone+, CRN (now ChannelWeb), the IDG News Service, Informationweek and CNNMoney, among other publications. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she also has lived and worked in Phoenix, Arizona; San Francisco and New York City. She currently resides in Lagos, Portugal. Montalbano has a bachelor's degree in English/Communications from De Sales University and a master's degree from Arizona State University in creative writing.

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